July 31 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, May 22, 2014
A female Spitfire pilot has defended flying at a former USAF air base amid concerns that the number of aircraft using the site could grow dramatically.
Carolyn Grace said the peace and tranquillity of the county’s coast and heath’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was important to her family but any aircraft could fly over it – and many pilots would not even know there was an AONB below.
She also rejected suggestions that moves were afoot to turn Bentwaters into a civil airport.
Air Leasing Ltd’s flying of the Spitfire and eight heritage planes from the site near Rendlesham has come under scrutiny because the site’s owners have submitted a new blueprint to Suffolk Coastal for its future use, and some residents fear it could mean more flying from the site.
Mrs Grace learned to fly the Spitfire ML407 in 1988 after the death of her husband Nick, who had restored the Second World War fighter. Her son Richard is also now rebuilding and maintaining the planes.
She said: “The current misinformation that a civil airport is inevitable if this planning application is approved is so utterly incorrect it is hard to know where to begin to explain.
“For example, a civil airport requires funding in the billions of pounds just to set up let alone operate and heritage aircraft do not fly into civil airports, so this would actually end the purpose of Air Leasing being at Bentwaters at all.”
Every effort had been made to stop aerobatic practising by others over the area and the AONB was of the “utmost importance” to the family and company.
Mrs Grace said: “We take great care to fly with full consideration to the AONB and tranquillity.
“The majority or our flying takes our aircraft away to other parts of the UK and Europe, it is not continually in the local area.
“What has to be understood is that there is quite extensive military activity in the area plus there are many other farm strips and small airfields that will fly nearby – it is important to realise the aircraft the public see or hear may not be ours and therefore may not be as aware as we are about the AONB or tranquillity of the area.
“I am afraid to say that the AONB is not marked as a consideration on air navigation maps so aviators from outside of the local area would be unaware of this particular designation.”